This week's installment of SFist Memoirs comes from Jim Doeppers, the uncle of this contributor. In 1973, Jim drove his hippie van from the Midwest to San Francisco at the tender age of 23 and instantly immersed himself in the counter culture of the time, where he remained for the next twenty years. From growing his own crops in Humboldt County and being Jerry Garcia's friend and drug connection to working the houseboat docks in Sausalito, and then ultimately ending up in rehab, Jim has experienced the party lifestyle inside and out. Let's start from the very beginning, shall we?
Jim's first California experiences:
The first night I stayed in California was in the White Panther compound in the Panhandle. The police raided it that night. That was my first exposure to San Francisco. The next day I moved to Marin.
The first time I did LSD in California, I was at a Grateful Dead concert at Golden Gate Park, and a guy who was running from the cops handed me a sheet of blotter paper. I had done acid in college, but it was nothing like that. Just by holding it, it started going through my fingers. It was very strong. By the time I swallowed some, I probably already had a couple doses going through my fingers. I passed it around to all my friends. That was one crazy episode.
We used to stand on top of our marijuana patch and watch the helicopters across the way on the next mountain pull those big cargo nets of marijuana up, and they would burn all of it in the state park on the freeway. All the people would come and stand downwind, and they didn't know what to do about since it was state land. There would be a thousand stoned-out people on Saturday. They'd burn it on a Saturday morning, and everyone would come and have a big, old party. That's the way it worked up there.
I was a personal friend of Jerry Garcia. I used to fly to Colorado to visit friends, and I would bring his "supplies." He'd call me and say he was doing a concert in the Red Rocks, and I'd bring him an ounce of coke and some marijuana.
I worked for ten years as the manager of a houseboat marina in Sausalito with the multimillion dollar houseboats that have helicopter pads on top. Lots of rock and roll and bohemian types lived there. Sterling Hayden, Stewart Brand, Carolyn Garcia, and Grace Slick. Jack Lalanne also lived there, and he'd invite you out and give you carrot juice. Sterling Hayden would give you a joint and then start cutting you lines of cocaine and telling you stories about the high seas.
I was there to settle disputes and make sure all the houseboat owners were happy, so I got to know all of those people pretty well. I could barely get past a houseboat without getting invited in, since most of them were home all the time. My day was pretty much trying to get from one houseboat to the next. I was getting invited onboard for a drink and a smoke of marijuana, and then I'd be doing lines in the afternoon. It's all because they wanted me to do something for them. They either wanted the company because they were lonely or they wanted me to put them on the list to get a new pile for their boat, and I was happy to accommodate them. I was their friend.
All that led me finally to having to get into recovery. That lifestyle eventually got to the point that I was getting high every day with everybody on every boat. For ten years. And finally I had to quit that job and get in recovery. I was a mess.
After getting clean and sober, Jim worked at a recovery treatment center in Marin for ten years, and he now runs two sober living homes in Mill Valley.
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